To his friends and fellow Marines, Joseph McHenry was known as the kind of guy that everyone enjoyed being around.
He could be a goofball at times, and he would let everyone how much he idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger by working out all the time and repeating some of his well known one-liners.
But he was mostly reserved and always had people’s backs, friends say.
He also had an adventurous side to him.
Every now and then, he would isolate himself from civilization by going on camping trips, leaving his cell phone or any other technology at home to explore one of his other passions: the great outdoors. But he would always return.
As the latest effort to continue the search for McHenry wrapped up Monday, the group of Marines that banded together this past weekend to look for their missing comrade were left baffled as to why he didn’t return this time.
“It just doesn’t make sense that he hasn’t been found yet,” said David Eleidjian, one of the Marines who took off work and left duty to travel to Pacifica to make another effort to find McHenry. McHenry, a 27-year-old San Bruno resident and former Marine, has been missing since March 5 after he went on an overnight rock climbing and camping trip at a beach near Pacifica.
“This is a very populated area,” said Eleidjian, a former Marine who served with McHenry when they were stationed in Iraq in 2007. “The fact that he hasn’t been found yet raises a lot of questions.”
The group of Marines who conducted the search—about 20 in all, some who didn’t even know McHenry—spent hours Saturday and Sunday scouring the area in Pacifica where some of McHenry’s belongings were found in previous searches.
They didn’t find any new clues over the weekend and decided to call the search off Monday to let everyone return back to their jobs or to active duty.
But late in the day, one of the Marines said a fisherman he ran into told him that he saw a human foot and leg wash ashore. That latest clue is leading them to think the worst has happened, Eleidjian said. But it is also giving those close to McHenry hope that he will be found somehow.
“The police department will do a DNA test, and we're certain that it’s his,” Eleidjian said of the fisherman’s findings. “But until they do the DNA test, we won't know 100 percent.”
What has also given hope to McHenry’s friends is all the community support they have continued to see for the missing San Bruno man since the group arrived over the weekend.
State Sen. Leland and some of his staff joined the Marines in the rainy weather during the Saturday search.
One woman who brought the group food and water also volunteered to search with the Marines for a few hours. She ended up breaking her ankle while traversing a hill. But Eleidjian said the Marines gained a new comrade from the experience as he’ll now be checking back in with the woman from time to time to make sure she is doing better.
Former Marine Austin Ait, who was stationed in Iraq with McHenry, Eleidjian and several others who were in the search group, said he was surprised that so many current and former soldiers came out to support their effort. Some flew in from cross-country while others drove for hours to help.
“To see all the other guys who came from that far away was an eye-opener for how far that brotherhood goes,” said Ait, a Walnut Creek resident.
For now, said Kyle Parrish, who was a communication specialist along with McHenry, all they can do is remember the Marine Corps motto, “Semper Fi”—always faithful—and hope that everyone else in the area stays faithful as well.
"This is Semper Fi in the truest sense," Parrish said in describing their search effort.
“The best thing people can do now is keep an eye out for him,” he added.